IHC Newsletter
In This Issue
THE WORLD URBAN FORUM (WUF IV)
WORLD HABITAT DAY
NEW STAFF AT THE IHC
FY 2009 IHC LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
A NEW MILESTONE
URBANIZATION AND GROWTH
CONGRESS IS PLANNING TO REWRITE...
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Volume 2, Issue 3 September 2008
THE WORLD URBAN FORUM (WUF IV)
IHC PARTICIPATION IN WUF IV NOVEMBER 3-6, 2008 IN NANJING, CHINA

The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies and policies.  It is a biennial gathering attended by a wide range of partners, from non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, urban professionals, and academics, to governments, local authorities, and national and international associations.  It is this common platform for all these divergent groups that makes the World Urban Forum a unique event.  The Fourth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF IV) will be held in Nanjing, China, November 3-6 (For more details go to: www.UNHABITAT.org).
Since it is not a legislative meeting and does not follow the formal rules of procedure that usually govern official UN meetings, the working arrangements of the Forum are deliberately kept simple and informal.  It has developed a reputation for healthy and inclusive debate on urban issues.  The number of people attending the World Urban Forum has risen steadily to 11,400 at the last event, held in Vancouver in 2006
 
The IHC first became involved with the World Urban Forum in 2006.  The IHC will be sponsoring two sessions at WUF IV:

  • "Urban Land Markets in Africa and Housing the Poor."  The session will identify some of the constraints to development of efficient land markets that can better serve the needs of the poor.   Strategies and approaches to expanding the availability and efficient use of urban land, particularly for affordable housing, will be presented, using case studies from Kampala, Uganda and another Sub-Saharan African city.  IHC senior advisor, Steve Giddings will be the lead investigator and present his findings.  The IHC will be collaborating with the World Bank and the International Real Property Foundation on the session.
  • "Donor Financing of Housing, Urban Development and Slum Improvement". This session will be co-sponsored by the IHC and Westat. It will explore current trends in donor assistance to the housing and urban sector. It will assess why donors have not provided more assistance to urban areas, given the rapid urbanization of the developing world and the opportunities it is generating for economic growth and poverty alleviation. The IHC also will report on its mission and activities.

 
WORLD HABITAT DAY
OCTOBER 8, 2008 IS WORLD HABITAT DAY

The United Nations has designated the first Monday in October of each year as World Habitat Day.  The idea is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and on the basic right to adequate shelter for all.   It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.  The global observance of the occasion this year will be led from the Angolan capital of Luanda.  The celebration in Angola is intended to show the world how the country after years of conflict is progressing in the establishment of harmonious cities through urban development, poverty alleviation, improved land and housing rights, and providing access to basic urban services.


IHC Board Chairman, Peter Kimm, will moderate a Habitat for Humanity International WORLD HABITAT DAY themed policy forum on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, October 8th 2008.
NEW STAFF AT THE IHC
ALINA ZYSZKOWSKI HIRED TO EXPAND THE IHC COALITION AND FUND RAISE

Alina Zyszkowski has been hired by the IHC as a part-time consultant to focus on development, fundraising, advocacy and outreach.  Alina has an extensive network and background in international development and is the former Executive Director of the Washington D.C. chapter of the Society for International Development (SID). Most recently she worked as the Director of Marketing at IHC member, AECOM International Development. She is a fluent Russian and Polish speaker.

FY 2009 IHC LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES


FIVE LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FOR FY 2009

In FY 2009 the IHC and its membership adopted five priorities for its advocacy program. Four involve legislative actions by the U.S. Congress and one is focused on Canada's foreign assistance programs. The priorities are:

  • Increase U.S. funding for water and sanitation projects in developing countries.  The IHC supports increased funding for the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act from the current level of $300 million to $500 million in FY 2009.  The IHC further supports increased used of these funds for projects that bring water and sanitary services to urban slums.
  • Increase U.S. Government support for secure tenure.  The IHC, recognizing the lack of secure tenure in informal/slum communities, supports housing and land tenure programs.  The U.S. Government should set specific goals for increasing access of the poor to secure tenure.
  • Improve the capacity of USAID to implement effective foreign aid programs that serve the poor.  The IHC supports the President's FY 2009 budget proposal to increase the number of USAID Foreign Service Officers by 300.  The IHC further supports  the position that a significant number of Officers be qualified to design and manage housing, water/sanitation, and slum upgrading programs and that a senior position be created to direct implementation of the Water for the Poor Act.
  • Support for U.N. Habitat.  The IHC supports funding in the amount of at least $1.25 million for U.N. Habitat (up from $1 million in FY 2008).  Habitat, as the sole U.N. organization concerned with human settlements, plays an important role in focusing worldwide attention on housing conditions in the developing world.
  • Canadian Foreign Assistance.  The IHC is assisting CREA to assess the awareness and involvement of Canadian foreign assistance departments and agencies in supporting housing as an engine of growth domestically and internationally.  Subsequent efforts will focus on developing specific recommendations to increase Canada's capacity to support housing and urban development programs.

A NEW MILESTONE-THE WORLD IS HALF URBAN
AFRICA AND ASIA ARE RAPIDLY URBANIZING

The Unites Nations projects that some time in 2008 more people on earth will live in cities than in rural areas.  Over the past half-century, the world's urban population has increased nearly fourfold, from 732 million in 1950 to 3.15 billion in 2005.  The bulk of future urban population increase - 88 percent of the urban growth from 2000 to 2030 - is projected to occur in cities of the developing world.  Asia and Africa, the most rural continents today, are set to double their urban populations to some 3.4 billion by 2030.
 
In contrast, for North America and Europe, where more than half the population has lived in cities since 1950, urbanization has slowed considerably.  Latin America, at 77 percent urban, is going through a similar transition as it sees growth of its "megacities" - urban agglomerations with more than 10 million inhabitants -- slow considerably.  Urban slum populations in Latin America, however, continue to grow.
 
Africa is currently the least urbanized continent with around 40 percent of its population living in urban areas.  However, the urban areas of Africa are predominantly characterized by slum conditions.  Recent estimates by the U.N. are that fully 72 percent of Africans residing in urban areas are living in slums.  Urbanization there is more recent and more rapid because of higher overall population growth, rural poverty, and in some cases conflicts that drives people into cities.  It also holds perhaps the greatest challenge; due to low incomes and the limited resources that historically have been available to address the tremendous need for urban infrastructure and services. 

URBANIZATION AND GROWTH -AN EVOLUTION IN THINKING
CHINA HAS EXPERIENCED BOTH RAPID URBANIZATION AND GROWTH

James Adams, Vice President at the World Bank for the East Asia and Pacific Region, recently spoke at the Singapore World Cities Summit.  His comments, summarized below, are a window into the evolving views of the role of cities in fostering economic growth and development. 
 
So called old thinking in the development profession was that urbanization was a bad thing - that it led to people living in miserable conditions in slums with few opportunities to find work, educate their children, or escape poverty.  Public policy was regarded as being biased toward cities, which increased the attraction of rural people to urban areas.  Yet cities were viewed as incapable of providing the services and jobs the rural immigrants were looking for.   At one time donor agencies, led by the World Bank, were genuinely interested in finding ways to encourage people to stay in rural areas where their social networks could remain intact, than to migrate to cities and face the possible destruction of these networks and have to deal with crime, violence, and squalor.
 
This thinking has been turned on its head in East Asia.  Countries in the region have generally embraced urbanization because it creates "engines of growth" in the form of cities that, if planned and managed well, offer people opportunities to build productive lives.  Nowhere is this thinking more evident than in China.  A generation ago cities were first recognized as "growth poles," each sending a wave of economic growth to its hinterland.  Extreme poverty rates among rural populations dropped dramatically from 37 percent in the mid-1970s to five percent in 2001.  This urban growth has been largely achieved without a proliferation of slums.  Among the many factors responsible for this achievement are good national policies that give the Chinese municipalities the authority to introduce and implement regulations on government land use, transport systems, and the urban environment.   There has also been strong urban planning and utility management at the city level.  Finally, it was recognized that urbanization cost lots of money, and China spend a considerable percentage of its GDP on urban infrastructure.  With urbanization as the basic pillar of China's economic growth, by 2020 fully 60 percent of the Chinese are expected to be city-dwellers.
  
More and more data is confirming that spatial inequality within cities and between regions may increase in the early phases of development, but declines over time with strong economic growth.  In effect, cities draw people and firms to areas of higher productivity.  Urbanization is closely related to the way nations shift from agrarian to industrial economics and later to post-industrial economies.  No country has grown to high income status without vibrant cities.  China appears to be the latest country to prove this axiom.

CONGRESS IS PLANNING TO REWRITE THE FOREIGN ASSISTANCE ACT OF 1961
THE IHC PLANS TO BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT
The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 defines the U.S. Government's foreign assistance objectives and authorizes USAID. Congressman Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is particularly concerned that the current Act does not adequately provide the flexibility necessary to tackle global extremism, poverty and corruption. He has announced he plans to rewrite the 1961 Act and has begun to meet with a wide variety of interested parties. The IHC has met with his legislative aide and plans to be an active participant in discussions about the principles that should guide future U.S. foreign assistance. 
 
Background:
 
Today's foreign assistance structure dates back more than 45 years to the early days of the Kennedy administration. The structure was built in the midst of the cold war to meet goals and objects quite different from those being faced today.  Over the years it has been amended piecemeal.  Steven Radelet of the Center for Global Development (CGD) recently summarized its shortcomings as follows:
  • Lack of clarity on policies, goals, and objectives.  There is no over-arching policy for global development or strategy for U.S. foreign assistance.
  • Heavy bureaucratic requirements.  Many programs are subject to cumbersome bureaucratic strictures that ensure some funds never get close to their intended recipients.   There is far too little flexibility to respond effectively to meet the key needs on the ground in recipient countries.
  • Substantial fragmentation across policy and executing agencies.  More than 20 executive branch agencies administer our foreign assistance programs, sometimes working at cross-purposes or duplicating the efforts of each other.
  • Weakened professional capacity.  As programs have spread across agencies, bureaucratic requirements have grown, administrative funding has been cut, and the professional capacity within USAID has dwindled.   
  • Poor and incoherent allocation of funds.  Our foreign aid is heavily skewed toward political/military, counter-narcotics, and HIV/AIDS programs, and concentrated in a small number of countries, some of which are middle income.  Only one quarter of funds goes to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Weak accountability for achieving results.  Monitoring and evaluation systems too often fail to capture whether programs achieved important strategic development objectives, and because our foreign assistance programs are scattered over so many agencies it is often impossible to hold any one agency responsible for success or failure.
The IHC sees this re-writing as an important opportunity to move the housing/urban agenda forward within the U.S. foreign aid programs.  Among the many criticisms of the existing legislation is that it was written at a time when urbanization was not recognized within a development context, and development theory expressly favored rural and agricultural investment.  Some even viewed the evolving pattern of urbanization as something that could be stopped by effective countervailing assistance programs.  That perspective has been replaced by the recognition that urbanization is both an engine of economic growth and an inevitable consequence of it.  A central development challenge of the 21st century is to manage this growth in order to amplify its broader benefits to economic advancement, while addressing the need for decent shelter and services of a growing population.